The Western Balkans region is very vulnerable to foreign disinformation, which has intensified in recent years. Why is this? What can be done to mitigate it?
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The NATO Review website published this piece by Daniel Sunter, the following is an excerpt.
Demonising the United States and NATO; presenting the EU as weak and divided; advertising Russian military might and COVID-19 vaccine superiority, and claiming that Western vaccine producers are corrupt; and amplifying threat perceptions, myths and ethnic tensions – these are among the most frequent topics of disinformation promoted by the Kremlin in the Serbian-language media in the Western Balkans. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia are the most affected by Russian information operations that attempt to undermine the European Union and NATO in the region.
In a broader sense, disinformation is an endemic phenomenon in the Western Balkans caused by internal factors. Without exception, all nations in the region are affected. When it comes to foreign disinformation, Serbia is considered to be at the epicentre. The latest disinformation study of the European Parliament called it a “launchpad for Russian disinformation operations in the Western Balkans”.
The flow of information between countries in the region is borderless. Close social, historical and cultural ties between Serbia, the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska and Montenegro mean that almost all media narratives, including disinformation, flow across borders daily.
Kremlin-sponsored media content in the Serbian language is produced, republished and disseminated widely throughout the region. It is consumed by millions in societies with inherent fragilities and internal divisions, in a region which traditionally has a positive attitude towards Russia and where perceptions are still influenced by the ethnic conflicts in the 1990s and NATO’s Kosovo Air Campaign in March 1999. Unlike Eastern-flank EU and NATO member states, the region lacks negative historical experiences with Moscow and shares a common Orthodox religion.
Beyond the idealistic presentation of Russia’s leadership and its weapons, such disinformation demonises NATO and the United States, fuels ethnic tensions and presents the European Union as a dysfunctional, racist and anti-Serb organisation. It amplifies the threat perceptions of the Orthodox population as well as a culture of remembrance that portrays Russia and the Soviet Union as powerful protectors throughout history.
We recommend that you read the rest of this very informative piece at its source, here.